Tuesday we toured the under-construction site of Mothers’ Milk Bank at Austin’s new location, which is expected to open at the end of March. The site will allow the bank to double its production in the next two years.
The site at 5925 Dillard Circle, was previously Trinity Hardwood, and is 29,000 square feet. The bank will occupy about 15,000 square feet of that and lease out the other 14,000 square feet.
It will be the bank’s fourth location since it opened 17 years ago. The first two were 900-square-feet and 1,500-square-feet and in an office building next to St. David’s Medical Center. The third site, which it has been in since 2010, is 4,200 square feet and at Medical Arts Street.
At its first three sites, the Milk Bank had its lease donated by St. David’s. Now it will have a mortgage. The bank has raised about half of the $2.9 million in construction costs.
“We’re counting on the community to rise up and say this matters to Austin, to Texas, to the U.S.,” said Kim Updegrove, executive director of the bank.
The new site will include a research lab to help the bank develop more targeted milk for the littlest babies and three other milk processing labs. It will have four walk-in freezers, replacing the 22 standard freezers it’s currently using. It also offers workstations for all of the bank’s 16 full-time employees with space for another 11 work stations and provides a board room.
The new site will allow the bank to become a community center for education about lactation and family support. The site also will have a lactation room and a children’s playroom.
The goal is to make more donor milk accessible to the infants who need it as well as making giving milk more accessible to donors. Last year, the bank reached a milestone with more than 1,000 donors. They donated more than 600,000 ounces, which benefited more than 7,000 babies.
“We do this because they do this,” Updegrove said. “It’s an exhausting year of their life. They take care of their own family, and they pump a little extra to give to the milk bank.”
About 75 percent of donors are from Texas, but the bank has donors from as far away as Hawaii who ship their milk to Austin. The bank serves 160 hospitals in 22 states as well as about 60 infants who are no longer in a hospital setting but get a prescription for milk.
The site being more accessible to donors because it is close to a train stop and a bus stop and across from the Austin Community College location at what was Highland Mall as well as doing more community support is part of the bank’s plan to increase the number of donors.
Libby Gimpel said she is grateful to the donors who helped her son, Xzavier Caraballo. He’s 4 now, but when he was born at 29 weeks and spent 64 days in the neonatal intensive care unit at St. David’s, she wasn’t able to make enough milk for him and he wasn’t able to digest formula.
She wishes she had known about Mothers’ Milk Bank when she had her older son and had extra milk. She now encourages her friends who are nursing to pump extra. “Babies really need this,” she says. “They don’t call breast milk liquid gold for no good reason.”
Kari Anne Roy’s son Isaac, who is 8, was born three months early and had to have a tracheotomy when he was 6 months old. He couldn’t digest formula or regular food. He had donor milk until he was 2. “It was the only thing he could tolerate,” she says. Even after Medicaid stopped paying for it, the milk bank through its charitable care program made sure they still got it. “No one ever gets turned away,” Roy said.
Jeanne Anne Pratt and Bryan Martin’s three children all got donor milk because of being failure to thrive or being born early. “We tried everything,” she said, especially for son Davis, 7, who needed milk that was high in fat, which she wasn’t producing. “They gave us so much,” Pratt said of the bank. “Even when there wasn’t enough milk to go around, if they had to get it from Indiana, we still got it.”
Find out more about Mothers’ Milk Bank at milkbank.org.